Why is the latest John Lewis Christmas ad so good? In large part because it's so damn emotive.

And of course, that emotion comes through a lot more strongly in the finished ad than it would in the script.

The ad takes us all the way from super-sad hare...


...to joyful hare.


Via wondrously surprised bear.


And as the animals feel, so do we.
 
Because our emotions are very linked to other peoples faces.

(It's irrelevant that the characters are animals in this ad, since the animators have given them basically human features).

Of course the ad is clever too, and has lovely music, but at its core it is just an incredibly successful elicitation of emotion, which then inevitably becomes associated with the brand.

It instantly reminded me of Bill Bernbach's famous "How do you storyboard a smile?" quote. With those six well-chosen words, Bernbach asserts the centrality of emotion in successful advertising, that the script is often only a fraction of the communication, and that performance and directing are so important. 

(The importance of emotion perhaps explains the recent success of all those Candid Camera-style ads, since little is more effective than seeing real people moved. Example - Dove Sketches). 

Bernbach reminds us that we should constantly be striving to put more emotion into our work, and to be courageous in explaining to people that we show our work to (whether that be creative directors, clients, or account teams) why something that seems quite basic and perhaps unimpressive on the page will actually be powerfully effective.

An old buddy of mine, David Chriswick, who is now a top strategist at DDB Chicago, tells me he has started using Paul Ekman's facial expression tool with clients when formulating a brief. 

(Paul Ekman is the psychologist who worked out that all emotions can be seen through no more than seven basic facial expressions, and this is universal from Amazonian Indians to London bankers.)


This chart helps Chizzy to have a conversation not just around messaging but "what emotion are we trying to elicit." Good on him, I say.  

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